Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) for XO

Here is a link that explains how to set up Ubuntu on the XO.
(via OLPC News)
Addendum: 18/2/9
I installed it and it worked flawlessly. Here are my notes on the installation:

000. Remove the SD card and start the XO.
001. Start Terminal in Sugar.
002. Connect the USB drive
003. Run mount | grep /dev/sd , repeat until it returns a line like this:
     > /dev/sda1 on /media/ORNGESLIDE2 type vfat rw
004. Become root and stop haldaemon:
     	    sudo -s
     	    /etc/init.d/haldaemon stop
005. Insert SD card into the slot (the card will be erased, so back up all data
     on it that you want to preserve).
006. Erase MBR and partition table:
     	   dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=4096 count=1
007. Make the partition table:
     	  echo -e ',,L,*\n\n\n' | sfdisk /dev/mmcblk0
008. Create the root filesystem:
     	    mke2fs -jLOLPCRoot /dev/mmcblk0p1
009. Mount the filesystem and unpack the tarball onto it:
     	   mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt
	   cd /mnt
	   tar xvjf /media/ORNGESLIDE2/OLPCFiles-intrepid-20081130.tar.bz2
010. Copy the developer key:
     tar xvf /media/ORNGESLIDE2/security.tar.gz
011. Reboot:
012. Got the "Card didn't power up after 1 second" error:
     > I waited at the ok prompt and typed boot and it worked.
     > Recommended advice is if that works, to upgrade the firmware.
     > I will hold off for now.
013. After booting into a new system,
     log in as user olpc with password olpcolpc, and perform final updates:
014. Click on the Network Manager icon at the bottom panel,
     select the wireless network you want to use.
     If wireless network uses encryption,
     you will be prompted for the key/password.
     If it's a public access point that requires browser login
     (like T-Mobile hotspot), start Firefox and log in.
     Start Terminal and complete the configuration:
		(enter olpcolpc as the current password,
		then twice the password you intend to use)
		sudo aptitude update
		sudo aptitude safe-upgrade
		sudo aptitude reinstall ssl-cert
		sudo aptitude clean
		sudo /etc/init.d/cups start
015. Configure mplayer
     	       mkdir .mplayer
	       echo -e 'vo=sdl\nframedrop=1\nlavdopts=skiploopfilter=all:fast=1' > .mplayer/config
016. Install flash plugin
    	    sudo aptitude install flashplugin-nonfree
	    sudo ln -s /etc/alternatives/firefox-flashplugin /usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins/flashplugin-alternative.so
017. In Firefox, installed the plugins:
       adblock plus
018. Set the timezone:
       sudo dpkg-reconfigure  tzdata
019. Boot failed, instead it went into Sugar.
    Ran e2fsck -y /dev/mmcblk0p1
    	This fixed a bunch of errors. I killed e2fsck the first time,
	apparently with no ill effects.
    Rebooted, held the 'square' joystick button,
    hit escape 'x' on the keyboard to get the boot prompt 'ok'.
    Typed: boot sd:\boot\olpc.fth
    System worked, got keyring question
    	   Used the old default pw
	   Reset doing: rm .gnome2/keyrings/login.keyring
	   Logged out and in
020. Set up some swap space
     	 sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/swap.bin bs=1M count=256
	 sudo chmod 600 /swap.bin
	 sudo mkswap /swap.bin
	 In /etc/fstab add:
	    /swap.bin none swap defaults 0 0
	 In /etc/sysctl.confg add:
	    # Swap as little as possible

Programming in Education: OLPC Case Studies

Ben blogged here about some stories about OLPC case studies. They are all worth checking out.
Listen to the following NPR articles (both found here):

And read this article One Laptop Per New York City Student a Success and report.
The company WavePlace, mentioned in the story, can be found here. Be sure to have a look around the site!

The XO has got too much Sugar

The XO’s default user interface, Sugar, is very interesting. Its goal is to allow for kids to collaborate, and in doing so, enhance their learning. It is a wonderful idea. The only problem is that it leaves them with a computer that has got barely any memory and no swap (XOs haven’t got swap).
I did a little testing tonight, booting the computer cold, connecting to wifi, and then checking the memory with the ‘free’ command. Here is what I found:

Total MB Used MB Free MB
Sugar 232 220 12
FVWM 232 113 118

I suspect that the result of this is that kids have to be extremely diligent about how many programs they are running. In my experience it is pretty easy to bog the thing down to a stop; just hand it to someone used to operating any other computer; they start three programs, and the operating system will out of memory.
This decision must have been made for a good reason, though. It would be interesting to find it out. I won’t pursue that right now. Anyone happen to know?

Wifi-radar hoses my wifi router

If you don’t run Sugar on your XO, you need to configure your wireless connection somehow, and a lot of folks use wifi-radar, myself included.
While experimenting with it tonight, I noticed that the wireless connection on my other computer quit working periodically. Eventually I did put two and two together and found that everything worked fine when I wasn’t running wifi-radar!
Resolving this is of low-priority.

SD Cards on the XO

Here is the page on the OLPC website that documents secure digital cards on the XO.
The XO supports SDHC (high capacity). I use a 16GB AData card on my XO without problem.
Here is a little reminder: when you insert the SD card into the XO, do so with the screen, and the shiny part of the card, both facing you.
BTW: I use a “Sandisk MicroMate for SDHC” USB adapter to work with the card under Windows XP, it cost 8USD from an Amazon affiliate.

XO Critical Configuration 1

Until a recent trip, I hadn’t used the XO very hard, or configured it at all. Before heading out, I read Bill’s article and found some real gems that, along with my own preferences, make using the XO a much more pleasurable experience. They follow: